Saturday, March 30, 2019


My father had more illnesses and hospitalizations during his lifetime than I can count.  But he had a favorite saying about them.  “A sense of humor,” he would remind his family, “is the shock absorber over the potholes in the road of life!”  We are digging up our senses of humor and traveling slowly back to normal after the recent cluster of potholes in our life’s journey.  

Pothole #1: I reacted badly to an immunotherapy drug I received in February.  I  seemed to be improving a little when Bruce began finding some curious blind curves in his pathway.  

Pothole #2:  He noticed a few muscle aches here and there and discovered in the evening that his body temperature was 101.  Sometimes he would have a spell of shaking  chills when the temp went up but no other symptoms.  This went on every evening for a week, two weeks, three weeks when he decided to go to the doctor for the second time.

Pothole #3: This time he was sent to the local Emergency Department for some tests, and they kept him.  The hospital was so full of flu cases that there were no empty beds so he stayed in the ER for two days!  He was examined, poked, prodded, X-rayed, scanned, EKGed, echocardiogram-ed, blood cultured, and his every body part was tested, including his patience!  None of these diagnostic tools showed any cause for the infection that was raising his temperature.

Porhole #4:  Finally the Infectious Disease doctor decided to do a TEE, that’s a transesophageal echocardiogram (sounds impressive, doesn’t it?  It’s also a bit invasive!)  Through a tube passed down his esophagus, a camera did an echocardiogram.  It’s like the one that was done earlier but it gives the doctor a closer and more detailed view of the heart.  And there it was: infectious growth on the aortic valve that was replaced in 2015!  A cardiac cath was done the next day and showed that his heart was strong and healthy except for that patch of infection.  

Porhole #5:  So on Friday, March 22, he had open heart surgery to remove the infected valve and replace it with a new and healthy one.  His recuperation at the hospital went very well and he came home March 27.  He is on IV antibiotics twice a day and will be for 6 more weeks, but he is feeling well.

Pothole #6: Meanwhile, on the home front, MarySue needed help.  Her doctors advised her not to go to the hospital to visit Bruce because of infections she might be exposed to.  She was a little stronger than she was in February but still needed help managing her oxygen, fixing meals, doing laundry and other household tasks.  A near-by home care agency came to her rescue, providing help and companionship 24/7 while Bruce was in the hospital.  Except for the night time hours, we have continued their services since Bruce came home because MarySue is needing more help.

So the potholes in our pathway of life are flattening out somewhat but my sense of humor has not completely returned yet.  I hope it’s not lost out there in outer space where my lost energy is hiding!

MarySue Helstern Rosenberger

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Gift of Grace

You “churchy types” have no doubt heard the common religious definition of GRACE.  It is said to be “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense,” that is, undeserved divine forgiveness because of Jesus’ suffering for us. That’s a good definition for our spiritual well-being but this past month I’ve learned that grace can extend beyond the realm of the spirit.

I’ve discovered a new definition for that commonly used word.  GRACE has expanded to also mean unexpectedly “Getting Relief After Confusing Events.”  Let me explain.

It was about a month ago - early February - that I last saw the lung doctor.  I knew I was in bad shape and he confirmed that.  Breathing was difficult leaving me with no energy.  I had become a permanent occupant of wheelchair, recliner or bed, unable to walk even short distances around our house.  I was coughing a lot but with no signs of any infection.  He ordered a course of steroids and antibiotics and again reminded me that pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive and terminal disease.  His nurse practitioner had already discussed palliative and hospice care with me.  So I went home in bad shape emotionally as well as physically!

Then Bruce and I remembered something important.  One week before this sudden increase of symptoms I had been well enough to receive my second immunotherapy infusion.  I had developed similar - but milder -  symptoms  after my first infusion in December!  We wondered if there was a connection.

That’s when the gift of Grace kicked in physically.  Surprisingly, the more time that passed after that second immunotherapy infusion, the better I felt!  I was “Getting Relief After Confusing Events.”  Little by little I got more strength, my oxygen needs decreased slowly, and the coughing became less frequent.  Within ten days I was strong enough to walk from the living room to the bedroom, and the wheelchair was again retired to the garage!

Grace is, indeed, one of God’s most precious spiritual gifts, freeing us from burdens of sin and the guilt we so often heap upon ourselves.  I am now rejoicing in the recent revelation to me that the gift of grace can also free body and mind from burdens of illness!

MarySue Helstern Rosenberger